Advertising is a persuasive activity to sell a product or service. The generic definition is one that belongs to a bygone era. Why? Look at this. The country's two leading national dailies, The Times Of India and The Hindustan Times are still locked in a battle for the No1 slot. TOI, which has so far made tall-standing claims for its first all-colour newspaper or be it the No 1 leading daily, has this time around taken umbrage in spoofs as a potent tool to convey its brand image to the reader.
Rahul Kansal, brand director, Times Of India, scoffs and staunchly defends the spoof over rival Hindustan Times, when exchange4media.com contacts him. "It sounds as an interesting opportunity as we are a brand with a sense of fun. The HT ad is a silly one and has a chance to be eminently spoofable," he argues. Now, What is this spoof all about?
In one of the latest HT commercials on air, a woman in executive attire is seen moving up an escalator towards the platform of a metro rail station and notices a gentleman, clad in classy executive suits, reading the day's HT issue, which restrains the woman to catch the glimpse of the man's face. She roams around and tries her best to see the man but she fails. Meanwhile, the train arrives and she gets up. Till the last moment through the glass pane she gives an appreciating look at the man who is busy with the newspaper. The train leaves the station and the man removes the newspaper. In his strikingly ugly and repulsive face he wears a nonchalant look. The voice-over breaks: "The new Hindustan Times. Makes you look good."
Now begins the Tom and Jerry show.
In its latest Jerry avatar, The Times Of India steps in and ushers in its identity in the latest spoof of its rival. In its counter ad, TOI uses the smart, executive girl is replaced by a bimbette in a lousy suburb platform. She makes her best effort to see the man - in the same posture and attire, reading, this time, 'Behind Times'. Here the man removes the newspaper and the girl is shocked at his look. Seeing the guy no less a moron and more of an oddity, she collapses. Here comes the handsome guy who was reading a Times Of India to catch her.
"This is a sheer parody," chortles Anand Bhardwaj, Vice-President, Marketing, Hindustan Times. "I am flattered by this spoof. It stingles my viewpoint that a lighthearted newspaper like the TOI has no other way to react," he remarks. Will HT retort to this spoof, Bhardwaj abruptly responds, "Why should we? TOI has simply acknowledged HT as the No 1." He further goes on to comment that The Times Of India is a lightweight newspaper and this spoof is nothing more than a 'dance of democracy'.
O&M - the official advertising agency for HT, also seems unconcerned and does not wish to react to this parody and sit aplomb. However, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Associate Creative Director, O&M, is quite amused and remarks that TOI has indirectly rated HT as the No 1. Although, he has a word of advice: "If a dog bites you, I am sure a sensible person will at least not bite back. We are unperturbed by such cheap frills and moreover, it is in a manner adding value to the new HT brand image," says Bandyopadhyay.
If the readership war escalates, which is more than likely, the two dailies will have to eventually surrender this win-some-and-lose-some game and go back to the content part. Otherwise the harried readers, as well as the viewers will, in all probability, be forced to dump the ads and make some rational choices of their own.